A Hardside Pop Up Camper – The Story of Our Apache Mesa Purchase

A Hardside Pop Up Camper – The Story of Our Apache Mesa Purchase

Check out our Update on Our Apache – The Outside Fixes

My Mini-Freak Out

We popped up the camper to look at the inside before handing our cash over to the previous owner. We know it pops up, so why couldn’t we pop it up when we got it home? The camper was properly leveled and the tires were well chalked. We could crank the top up a foot or so, but then one side just stopped.

My mind started to race through all the things that could be wrong. We know she’s a fixer-upper, but what if we need new chains to fully pop up our new camper? We have no idea how to replace chains in an Apache Camper. We can figure out how to fix the little things, but the thought of replacing the chains threatened to throw me into a full-blown panic attack.

And this is how things typically go when Dave and I buy “projects.” We get started with the best of intentions, then things go oh so utterly wrong. I start to hyperventilate. Dave takes on the challenge in stride, then I calm down. God bless that man. It all works out in the end, typically.

Making a Large Purchase Decision

A 1975 Apace hardside pop up camper is our newest project. We searched long and hard for this camper. We endured many conversations about size, cost, and type of camper.

I wanted a hard sided travel trailer, but we found that either the value didn’t justify the price people were asking, or they were a complete rebuild, which would have delayed our camping season. Dave wanted a pop-up tent camper because of the weight and cost. But I protested that we would just be paying money to haul around a tent on wheels that would kill our gas efficiency.

A hard-sided Apache was the perfect compromise. It does take a bit of set-up time, but is light-weight like a tent trailer. Dave gets to learn about patching ABS plastic and we have a bit of other repairs to do. After some finagling and multiple curse words, we found that the chains work, they just need some lubrication (so far that is).Towable Hard-sided Pop Up Camper

We should be done with patches and small-part replacements in time for some early spring camping. And with the hard sides, I won’t have to worry about La Vie, our senior cat, clawing through a canvas, ruining the camper and getting herself lost.

By simply knowing what we wanted and doing our due diligence, we made a purchase that we are both comfortable with and that didn’t break our budget. These two steps may seem like a given, but they remain to be the two steps that keep us from regretting any large purchase we may make.

Know What You Want

Being temporarily retired, Dave and I knew that we needed to keep ourselves (read as “keep Katie”) from blowing our budget on a camper. This took a considerable amount of compromise and discussion around exactly what we were looking for.

When making a larger purchase, it helps to list out what each person wants and needs in order to know what you are looking for. And as you know, I’m a big fan of writing down what you want.

We took the following into consideration when searching for our camper:

  • Weight limit of 3,500 lbs – the max towing weight of our Ford Escape
  • Size – enough room for Dave, Katie, Porter, and La Vie for sleeping. Having room for another couple to enjoy a card game and drinks during any kind of inclement weather would be a plus
  • Cost – we set $5,000 as an adjustable max, but with hopes of finding something cheaper. Fixer uppers were OK if the price was right.
  • Longevity – the camper needs to hold its value and be built to last. No new campers; spending a good amount of money on a depreciating asset is not how we got to take our current “sabbatical” from paying jobs.
  • Cat friendly – OK, this is a Katie requirement. La Vie is my baby and she needs meds twice a day. If she somehow gets out of the camper and gets lost, then that camping spot is our new home until she is found. Happy wife right?

Your considerations maybe completely different from ours. Maybe you are anticipating a growing family and need more room. Maybe a toilet is a non-negotiable. Maybe your big purchase is a car or vacation instead of a trailer. Whatever it is, talk about it, think about it, and write it down. Then you’ll have something to compare your findings to.

Also, be patient. Dave is much better at this than I am. Search for what you are looking for often, daily even, but don’t be discouraged if it takes many months or upwards of a year or two.

Do Your Due Diligence – Find the Value

When buying a used camper, or really anything that costs more than you’re willing to loose in a poker game, it’s always preferable if you can physically see, touch, and explore what you are buying. Pictures can do wonders in making something look much better than it really is – even without Photoshop.

Example: Dave and I found a 13-foot hard-sided camper that looked amazing in the listing photos. It was over ten years old and the outside showed its age a bit, but nothing that we were concerned about. When we were there in person, it was very easy to spot the sagging roof. We don’t know how to fix water-damaged fiberglass and for $5,500 we expect to not have to learn something so complicated.Apache Mesa Pop Up Camper Set Up

When it comes to repairs, it’s always important to consider how much your time is worth. If it is worth saving your time and thus spending your money to buy a camper in better shape then do so. If you like fixing things and have the time, then spend a little less for a camper with more problem areas.

You also want to do research on the brand you’re buying. This is one that I originally was worried about. I had never heard of Apache but we weren’t going to shell out the money for an Airstream or a Shasta, no matter how much I begged, pleaded, and attempted to bribe Dave with beer.

But doing some research on the Apache brand made me so much more comfortable with what we were buying. There is an entire Apache Camper Community out there that is surprisingly supportive for a group found on social media. All the information you’d need aside from how to remold certain corners out of ABS, but more on that later.

Happy Campers

In the end, we are very happy with our little Apache Mesa. There’s still a good amount of work to do, but we like to learn, tinker, and (hopefully) improve things. With any luck the camper will retain its value just in case we decide to sell her one-day.

I’m sure another big purchase will come up in the near future and we will go through the same simple steps that we used when buying our little Apache. Until then, here’s to many camping adventures!

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